The Tragically Hip concert on Saturday night in nearby Kingston proved to be a Canadian and international love-in, with about a third of the nation watching at some point. This was an occasion when Gord Downie might have benefitted from Autotune, but his message about our obligations to First Nations peoples and the challenge to Prime Minister Trudeau, who was in the crowd, were note-perfect.
"We're in good hands, folks, real good hands. He cares about the people way up North, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what's going on up there. And what's going on up there ain't good. It's maybe worse than it's ever been, so it's not on the improve. (But) we're going to get it fixed and we got the guy to do it, to start, to help."
At issue is the apprehension of indigenous children by child-welfare officials, who placed the young wards with non-native families.Speakers said the practice was a deliberate effort to assimilate aboriginal children.
The $1.3-billion class action argues that Canada failed to protect the children’s cultural heritage with devastating consequences to victims. Their lawyers are pressing for summary judgment in the legal battle started in February 2009. The ’60s Scoop depended on a federal-provincial arrangement in which Ontario child welfare services placed as many as 16,000 aboriginal children with non-native families from December 1965 to December 1984.
That's a staggering number of children and 1984 is relatively recently. On one level this has nothing to do with the Residential Schools a destructive system in which a number of Christian denominations, including the United Church, participated. On another level they are closely related. So many of the children who were "educated" in those schools were scarred for life, and raised without benefit of nurturing family structure. Their children suffered as a result, a grim truth acknowledged by many survivors. When those children were "scooped" by child-welfare agencies there was little or no recognition of the systemic causes of the troubled family situations.
We can pray today for a worthwhile outcome for this suit, and not just in terms of the possible monetary settlement. We need to be honest about why this happened, how churches were complicit with governments, and how we might be part of a healing solution.